Central African Republic: The Hope, The Dream

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | January 28, 2013

Expectations for peace and reconciliation in Central African Republic (CAR) shot up after the appointment of Catherine Samba-Panza as the new interim president, the first female leader of the CAR, and the third in Africa on January 23.

Symbolically, the appointment of Mrs Samba-Panza is a powerful statement of CAR’s intention to stop the bloodshed which has torn apart the country. Part of Mrs Samba-Panza appeal is that she did not abandoned Bangui, the country’s capital city, at the height of the violence. As a result, she has been dubbed “mother-courage” and the days ahead will tell whether she is up to the huge task of fostering much needed hope in CAR to stop it from descending into an “anarchy, a non-state” as surmised by its former Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye. Continue reading

Obama-mania for Africa

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

First things first: (his brains aside) Barack Obama is handsome, cool, and energizing like a drop of dew on an October morn.

By ancestry, Obama is an African and it’s not far-fetched to say through him the ancestors have spoken with a voice that has resonated across the globe, rebranding the black image. Just like me, my friend Innocent has been glued onto Obama’s presidential campaign.

We both know the twist and turns of the law professor cum US Senator cum presidential candidate’s campaign trail like our hidden souls.

“Obama is a shining star of our generation, and his rise has been nothing less than meteoric. He represents a line of great inspirational and transformational leaders like Nelson Mandela, and he’s making history right before our eyes,” says Innocent.

I couldn’t agree more: if anything, Obama’s decision to run for presidency is one of the best things to happen to Africa after Mandela.

Apart from his personality, Obama’s message of hope, if actualized, is one that can potentially heal global wounds inflicted by increasingly belligerent US policies over the past eight years of George Bush’s rule. In fact, I must admit that that I have become emotionally, spiritually and intellectually hitched to the Obama star over the past two or so years of the US presidential campaign trail.

With all due credit to Obama, he has managed to build a golden stair that has resonated with many people across the world. For the first time in my life, I have absolutely fallen in love with public service life, courtesy of Obama. Continue reading

Bob’s Zimbabwe

 ‘So arm in arms, with arms, we’ll fight this little struggle’    

On April 18, 1980, Jamaican musical maestro Bob Marley joined millions of Zimbabweans to celebrate a hard-won independence from oppression.  

As part of his tribute he performed the song “Zimbabwe” live in Harare, the capital city. April 18 marked the day on which Zimbabwe’s incumbent leader Robert Mugabe was sworn in as the first prime minister of a people that took over a hundred years to reclaim their freedom from British colonial rule.  

Twenty-eight years later Marley’s words in “Zimbabwe” ring with an amazingly prophetic tone. More than anything they speak to his inspired genius and to his ability to understand humanity.

But greater still, they speak to the struggle of how to build a nation from the ashes of oppression in which every human being must be granted a right to decide their own destiny.  

“Bob’s story is that of an archetype, which is why it continues to have such a powerful and ever-growing resonance: it embodies political repression, metaphysical and artistic insights, gangland warfare and various periods of mystical wilderness,” states the official Marley Web site.

I couldn’t have put it better.  

It was the ability of Marley’s music to tear into the fabric of the sociopolitical establishment of his time that won him so many fans.  

With his words Bob Marley was able to open up new human awakenings and, fused into rhythmic yet soothing Jamaican reggae melody, the power of his words went on to inspire millions of people around the world.  

The fact that Bob Marley penned a song for Zimbabwe can only mean that he had a special regard for the country in his heart.

By the power of his words, he managed to capture the dream of the people of Zimbabwe and project it onto the world map.  

More amazingly his words are so true to the reality in Zimbabwe today. As a Zimbabwean it’s both nostalgic and frightening for me to listen to the words of Marley’s “Zimbabwe.” 

Every man got to decide his own destiny

And in this judgement there is no partiality

So arm in arm with arms we’ll fight this little struggle

Cause that’s the only way we can over come our little trouble

Brother you’re right.

You’re right.

You’re so right.

You’re right  

We go fight (We go fight)  

We’ll have to fight (We go fight)

We’re gonna fight (We go fight)

Fight for your rights

Natty dread it in a Zimbabwe

Set it up in Zimbabwe

Mash it up in a Zimbabwe  

Africans a liberate Zimbabwe …

Divide and rule could only tear us apart

In every man chest there beats a heart

So soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionaries

And I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries 

On the one hand Bob Marley’s song arouses the joyous reminisces of a newly independent Zimbabwe with a promise of a future of hope, development, democracy and opportunity. On the other hand it mirrors the disintegration of the state of Zimbabwe today.  

For me it’s indeed like a surreal paradox. Marley’s song in the current Zimbabwe is no longer a song of liberation but a call to a united front that can confront the dark powers of black-on-black oppression camouflaged in pan-African ideology.

More than just a gifted songwriter and musician, Marley was indeed an inspirational prophet who wanted truth to be told and injustices to stop.  

Ironically Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe has ushered a dispensation that is akin to a silent genocide against his own people.  Marley must be cringing wherever he is living now with the gods of music.

Presently Zimbabwe has come down to devouring its own people because of the selfishness and greed of its political leaders.  

The political leaders care little about the people that they claim to represent. Poverty and suffering have become the order of the day in that beloved nation. All because of the beliefs held by its political leaders.  

The belief that we must revenge the evils of the colonial past has killed the country of Zimbabwe. Belief shows itself in action and, if its root is coated with evil, shows itself with an ugly face.  

Revenge, oppression and hatred are the currencies turning the wheels in the ramshackle state of Zimbabwe. And as a result many people in the country are dying, like donkeys drinking water at a poisoned well.  

Marley asked in one his songs: What happens to a man that kills to save his own belief? That very question is what Zimbabwe’s political leaders need to ask themselves today. The political leaders’ divide-and-rule tactics against the population have made Zimbabwe a laughingstock around the world.  

The nation itself is like a house cracking at its foundation. Not many in Zimbabwe today have a right to choose their own destiny. Partiality and cronyism is what the politicians practice.  Increasingly it is becoming apparent that ordinary people need to join “arm in arms” to fight for freedom; otherwise, there will be no guarantee of a future of promise.

Only a united Zimbabwe can fight the trouble the nation is facing.   But the truth is that the country today lacks true revolutionaries: people who are willing to give up their lives for the cause of freedom, but who will not kill innocent beings for the cause of freedom.  

True revolutionaries who dare to dissent at the risk of having their voices cut off. Mugabe’s government has become like a mercenary against the people. But in every Zimbabwean’s heart, the quest of freedom beats constantly.

It’s probably the only right thing about the country today.  If the people of Zimbabwe can believe more in the sound of that heartbeat, Marley’s song will reverberate again like a joyful sound.

Freedom must free not just the freedom seeker but those around him.  Real revolutionaries, in Marley’s words, are people who do not tolerate any form of injustice or oppression. That message rings true throughout his music, touching the hearts of many freedom fighters around the world.  

And in Zimbabwe, Marley’s words could never sound better as a call to progressive action. 

Zimbabwe: The Hope, the Dream

At Independence from British rule in 1980, the Government of Zimbabwe inherited some of the most serious socio-economic inequalities in the world in terms of income, assets and access to education, housing and healthcare.

The economy then was biased in favor of the white minority. However, despite some war damage, Zimbabwe’s economy at Independence was well diversified between industry, agriculture and services, with excellent infrastructure and apparently good potential for growth. 

Independence brought a crisis of rising expectations requiring the government to immediately address the inherited inequalities. Thus, during the first decade of independence, the government invested heavily into social programs aimed at uplifting the livelihoods of the majority of the people.

But the issue of land ownership was never adequately addressed till early 2000 when government forcibly repossessed land belonging to white farmers. This led to an international outcry and, since year 2000; the country has been in a limbo.  

Today, the resolution of the country’s multifaceted crisis could take a number of different turns and pathways. But the pathway the country travels will be largely determined by the outcome of political developments that are at the heart of the current crisis.  

A key factor defining and sustaining the crisis has been the partisan approach to issues of national significance, which has forestalled productive political dialogue. This has given rise to a barrage of international sanctions – ostensibly targeted at the country’s leadership – that have worsened the plight of ordinary people.  

Zimbabwe can only extricate herself from the current crisis with a political settlement, which brings much needed stability to the country. In the absence of a political settlement, the nation of Zimbabwe will continue down the road of further disintegration and decline.

The decline will adversely affect all sectors of society. There will be an increase in lawlessness, brain drain, corruption, poverty and disease. 

There’s need for a process of national healing in which all outstanding national issues will be brought out in the open without fear or favor.

This route cannot all together be avoided if Zimbabwe is to live up to its true potential. Thus, the question is not whether there will be a transition in the country, but when it will happen. 

However, that transition will be a brainchild of political change and confidence building measures both locally and internationally.

The transition will likely involve initial moderate reforms to get the economy back on track while the political details are being worked out.

There will be a need to both democratize and modernize Zimbabwe’s institutional framework in a way that make it responsive to the needs of its people. Without such reforms, Zimbabwe cannot be effectively and democratically governed. 

To be successful, the process of transition must reflect the hopes and aspirations of the people as well as receive the blessings of the international community.

Zimbabwe must not regard herself as an island in today’s interconnected world. Immediate turnaround should not be expected. There is a danger that such a turnaround can result in superficial changes.  

Even when hopeful signs of recovery begin to appear, the economy would still continue to decline over the short term until the reform process kicks in.

The transition process may be further delayed by the rise of populist demagoguery on the part of political actors who have the most to lose from the way the political space is conducted today.

The transition period could last from six months to more than five years. The more protracted the transition period, the greater will be the degree of polarization and generalized social and political conflict. 

While the transition period will be mainly aimed toward stabilization, the reform era will involve the move towards a more vibrant democratic society and the opening of the politico-economic system, creating new opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs.  

The spirit of entrepreneurship must be deliberately encouraged among the people with emphasis being placed on the provision of quality services or goods that can penetrate the global market.

Entrepreneurial activities must be synonymous with quality, not necessarily of first world standards but, one that is consistent with the Zimbabwean aesthetic sense yet still able to satisfy the global market. 

In other words, Zimbabwean products and services must be locally inspired but globally oriented. If business creation can gather momentum, it will mean good news for the economy.

The government, universities, technical colleges, and business groups must encourage entrepreneurs by offering cheap financing, reducing bureaucracy and instilling confidence that Zimbabwean products can break into the world market if well-produced and well-marketed. 

There’s still a dream and hope in Zimbabwe but it will only be captured through a change in attitude of its leadership characterized by tolerance of diversity and respect for fairness, freedom and justice.

As it is, the world has not yet seen the true Zimbabwe.